Anxiety is ridiculously common and pervasive in our communities across Australia. I don’t know about you, but when one look at the numbers, it really is staggering just how many people suffer from this mental health condition. Australia has approximately 25 million people in this beautiful country and over two million of them will have anxiety in any given year. Men, women, children, old and young, from all walks of life can suffer from this debilitating condition.
Whether it be phobias, social anxiety or a specific disorder such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder, there are periods of time in a person’s life where they may be more at risk and suffer greatly from the effects of anxiety. Think of the big big big life changes…having kids, changing jobs, getting a mortgage, starting and ending relationships. This is just a few of the biggies that have the potential to create varying levels of anxiety symptoms in different people.
So how can we support our friends and family who experience anxiety? Here are 5 ways that we can do our bit
- Get clear on what anxiety is and how it impacts your friend or family member. Listen to them, developing your understanding with empathy is a great start and that anxiety, whilst may have some common symptoms across different people, it can look very different from person to person. As an example, some people may experience anxiety as panic and become avoidant and another person may become irritable and angry.
- Anxiety is not something that a person can just “get over” or “get past” in a flash. Sometimes listening with an open heart can go a long way and asking them what they need and offering some insights from what they have shared with you previously. In my work, I have noticed, that some people who suffer from anxiety are able to identify patterns and times when symptoms are most problematic. Whilst it is difficult to self-regulate during a moment of heightened anxiety, some gentle insights from a trusted friend really be invaluable.
- Work together on anxiety prevention tactics. Whilst this may be difficult unless you live close to each other, doing things together that help with the symptoms of anxiety such as exercise, mediation or yoga, but if you are close and able to do this, it has double benefits as you get to build your connection with each other, enjoying an activity. Even better, get a group together for a little accountability pod and increase the support all round. These activities can serve as a distraction and an opportunity to slow one’s mind down.
- Sometimes it can be easy to develop an overburdened sense of responsibility when you are helping someone with anxiety and often this isn’t overly helpful. If a friend or family member is avoidant during periods of heightened anxiety, then it is important to not take over and doing everything for them, in a sense this will just enable the anxiety symptoms to increase and the avoidant behaviour to continue. What can you do instead? Work together to help them to help themselves. This could be a simple brainstorming exercise on how they can perform certain tasks or help them break down the task into smaller more manageable steps.
- If your friend or family member hasn’t already, encourage them to get the support and treatment they need. Even just talking to a health professional can be a great start. A GP is often a great first point of call. When I am working with client’s experiencing anxiety, we talk about having an open conversation with the treating GP regarding our sessions and progress.
Anxiety is a big issue in our society, and it is important that we all become more aware and develop our understanding of the impacts this can have on a person’s well-being, relationships, employment, social life and daily life. The more knowledge we have, the more we open ourselves up to understanding the individual and their needs, the more we can work together to bring some much-needed change and support our loved ones.
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, please contact me on 0419 915 589 or visit www.purelymindful.com.au and submit an online enquiry. I am happy to chat and offer any assistance I can and point you in the right direction.
www.beyondblue.org.au; www.recoverywarriors.com; www.psychologytoday.com
Photo: Nikko Macaspac – https://unsplash.com/@nikkotations?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit&utm_content=creditBadge